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Washington, D.C., Sep 28 —  A year-long investigation commissioned and funded by the world’s second largest gold producer, Newmont Mining, today reports that its Peruvian subsidiary ignored human rights standards, “prioritized eviction and litigation over dialogue,” and violated its own standards in its land dispute with Peruvian subsistence farmers.

In April, Máxima Acuña de Chaupe won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for successfully defending her land since 2011 from Newmont-subsidiary Minera Yanacocha’s attempts to acquire it. The company needs Maxima’s land to construct the mammoth Conga gold mine. If built, Conga would imperil four mountain lakes near her home in the Peruvian Andes. Her resistance to the company has come at great personal cost: Minera Yanacocha’s private security guards have repeatedly harassed and intimidated her. Just last week, Maxima was hospitalized after another such attack.

In 2015 Newmont commissioned and funded Washington-based Resolve to investigate the allegations of Minera Yanacocha’s misconduct made by Ms. de Chaupe and civil society groups. Released today, Resolve’s report found —

Human rights and security:

  • Minera Yanacocha put the Chaupe family’s “human rights… at risk” (p.35);

  • “Minera Yanacocha representatives indicated that land invasion is a regular occurrence in the Conga project area and swift extrajudicial defense of possession actions are a business imperative” (p. 24);

  • “Minera Yanacocha had a security agreement in place with the Peru National Police from 2011 until 2015” (p.15);

  • “Minera Yanacocha’s security agreement with the Police did not refer to the [Voluntary] [P]rinciples,” a set of global guidelines to prevent abuse by security forces hired by private companies (p.15);

Land ownership:

  • “Jaime Chaupe Lozano and Máxima Acuña de Chaupe were registered possessors after their purchase of the property from a family member in 1994. There is documentary and testimonial evidence to support this claim.” (p. 32);

  • Resolve’s investigators witnessed the Transfer of Domain of Possession documents from January 1994 in Jaime and Máxima Chaupe’s name (p. 19);

  • Resolve’s investigators’ only documentation of Minera Yanacocha’s claim to the Chaupe’s land was provided by the company and could not be independently corroborated;

Company approach:

  • Despite its claims otherwise, Minera Yanacocha avoided dialogue with the family in favor of brinksmanship: “Finding a pathway towards a resolution of the dispute has been delayed by [Minera Yanacocha’s] dominant legalistic orientation and a strategy that prioritized eviction and litigation over dialogue.” (p.xi)

The report concluded that in several instances, Yanacocha failed to meet international standards of corporate responsibility to which Newmont publicly commits. For example, the report found several “gaps” in their compliance with the Voluntary Principles to which they have committed, including a failure to conduct “a comprehensive investigation of security issues that are cause for concern.” (p.x) Resolve’s investigators also found that Yanacocha failed to provide “access to remedy” to solve disputes with communities -something it notes is the basis for most human rights standards. Their report states: “While Minera Yanacocha has an operational-level grievance mechanism in place, the company failed to self-employ this mechanism.” (p.35)

“This report finally recognizes what the company did not want to admit, neither in the media nor in the courts until now is: that the claims made by Maxima are valid and that Minera Yanacocha treated Maxima like an invader without reviewing all information in a timely manner,” said Mirtha Vasquez, attorney to Ms. de Chaupe and director of Grufides, a Cajamarca Peru-based NGO. “In addition, it confirms  that the company  does not meet even the basic principles to which it is committed, and its prioritization of judicial strategies ultimately exposed the Chaupe family to human rights violations. From our point of view, this report should be supplemented by a thorough investigation into the violation of rights and adverse impacts on the Chaupe family.”

Despite these findings, in many places, Resolve’s Newmont-funded report doesn’t hold Newmont or its Minera Yanacocha subsidiary responsible.

“Newmont’s own investigation has revealed the wide gap between its stated policies and actual practices,” said Payal Sampat, Mining Program Director at Earthworks. She added: “Newmont must take responsibility for the suffering that Ms. de Chaupe endures to this day by ending legal action against her, removing their security guards from her land, and ending plans to develop this destructive mine.”

“Much like the dam developers in Honduras did with my mother and COPINH, Minera Yanacocha fails to see Maxima as a human being with inalienable human rights. From day one, they have seen her as an obstacle that needs to be removed. Instead of engaging in peaceful dialogue, they pursue aggressive tactics such as violent evictions and lawsuits. On paper, Newmont has agreed to follow basic principles on security and human rights. But the company’s behavior on the ground tells a very different story,” said Bertita Isabel Zúñiga Cáceres, daughter of the late Berta Cáceres who won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for defending the Gualcarque River from a destructive hydropower power project. Berta Cáceres was assassinated on March 3, 2016 in Honduras for her activism, sparking international condemnation and awareness of the dangers faced by environmental defenders in the country.

More than 60 Goldman Prize winners have condemned the latest attack on the Acuña de Chaupe family. The statement  calls on Newmont to “cease any further harassment or intimidation, including any legal action against Máxima, the Chaupe family, or other community members.”

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